Have you ever been writing along with fluid lucidity, the words virtually spilling onto the page, when suddenly you come to a screeching halt because you’re not sure whether you should use “further” or “farther”?

The difference between “farther” and “further” is just one little vowel. “No big deal,” you may be thinking.

But it is a big deal! And I’ll tell you why: It’s because running into a stupid little rule you don’t know when you’re in the flow of writing is like running into a glass door you don’t think is there when you’re sprinting out to a swimming pool. Not only is it embarrassing, but it stops your forward momentum.

There is another reason why you should be very careful not to break the rules of writing. You probably don’t know this, but the world is filled with English teachers who spend their spare moments scouring printed materials for mistakes. When they find slip-ups, they perform ritualistic curses against the writers who are responsible. This is a little-known fact, but I happen to know it’s true. Have you ever wondered why so many writers end up as drunks, lunatics and suicides? Now you know.

Hopefully, you are now motivated to learn the proper use of “further” and “farther”….

· “Farther” refers to an actual physical distance.

· “Further” refers to an extension of time or a degree. It means “to a greater extent or degree.”

Here are a few examples:

· The hike to camp was farther (in the physical distance) than we expected.

· Let’s talk about this further (to a greater extent or degree) when we go home.

· His house is eight miles farther (in the physical distance) down the road than mine.

· I’m going to investigate this matter further (to a greater extent or degree).

Compared to what I call the “well/good conundrum” and other much stickier issues in the English language, this is a relative no-brainer. All you have to do is mentally link the “far” in “farther” with the idea of physical distance; and if it doesn’t relate to physical distance, use “further.” It’s not rocket science. So master it. Never again let it slow down your writing, embarrass you or draw curses down on your head.

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